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Exploring Diagnosis: Autism and the Neurodiversity Movement

1 October 2015 - 30 September 2020

PI/s in Exeter: Professor Ginny Russell

Funding awarded: £ 509,391

Sponsor(s): Wellcome Trust

Project webpage(s)

Exploring Diagnosis: Autism and the Neurodiversity Movement

About the research

This investigation explores the role that diagnosis plays in society and in medicine, using diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder as a case study.

While some patients seek diagnosis, others resist the use of diagnostic labels and argue diagnosis can be used as a form of social control. The investigation will explore how a diagnosis is experienced by adults. What are the benefits of, and objections to the diagnostic label? What are the consequences of diagnosis? How is diagnostic categorisation achieved by clinicians? What impact does a diagnostic label have on people's preconceptions? Autism diagnosis is particularly relevant because the label is increasingly applied, the diagnosis has clear costs and benefits, and its application is frequently contested.

The investigation will document and analyse the experiences of adults in the neurodiversity movement together with those who have sought a clinical diagnosis of autism. The neurodiversity movement comprises politically mobilised adults with autism who frame neurological difference as a valuable aspect of human variation and argue against medical diagnosis claiming it pathologizes normal behaviour.

Several workshops will teach film-making skills to adults with autism. Academic outputs will include journal articles, a book and a PhD thesis.